Human trafficking is focus of church consultation in Cuba
The Caribbean situation serves as a case study for the global phenomenon
Shifts in balance of power create uneasy relations in Latin America—Catholic News Service
The Latin American Biblical University (UBL), based in San José, Costa Rica, offers opportunities for volunteers and study programs. It is esp. looking for a 1- or 2-year volunteer to set up its online education program. Read more on the Costa Rica page.
CENTRAL AMERICA / MEXICO / CARIBBEAN
The closest international partners of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) live in the Central American, Mexican and Caribbean region. This gives Presbyterians the opportunity to get to know Christian brothers and sisters from the countries represented in the region because of the ease of travel and communication. As Presbyterians get to know these Christians they find that the economic situation of many is fragile. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) relates to a number of Christian institutions and churches in a manner that engenders trust and sharing.
There are three historical Presbyterian relationships in the countries of Mexico, Guatemala and Cuba. The relationships that once were mission body to mission church have moved to ones of sister churches in partnership.
Scottish Presbyterians founded the Latin American Biblical University (UBL) in San José, Costa Rica. It began as a women’s Bible school but today is a well-respected institution of theological training. Three PC(USA) mission personnel are working with the seminary at this time. The UBL receives students from all over Latin America. Dr. Elsa Tamez, former rector of the institution, has made an important contribution to theological thought throughout the world. The Fraternity of Evangelical Churches (FIEC) has had a meaningful presbytery partnership with the Presbytery of Lake Huron for many years. The FIEC is a member of the Association of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches of Latin America (AIPRAL).
For many years the PC(USA) has been in partnership with the Moravian Church of Nicaragua. The Moravian Church, historically found on the east coast of Nicaragua where indigenous people of the Miskito, Sumu and Rama tribes lived as well as Garifuno and African Nicaraguans, has extended into many parts of the country. The Presbyterian Church was part of the group of people who assisted the Evangelical Christians of Nicaragua as they banded together to give help to those who were devastated by the huge earthquake of 1972. The Evangelical Council of Churches (CEPAD) grew out of the Evangelical effort. The PC(USA) has been in partnership with CEPAD since. Nine PC(USA) presbytery congregations have partnerships with different in Nicaraguan groups. A close relation with the Evangelical Faculty of Theological Studies (FEET) has developed through the past years. The PC(USA) Office of Theological Education has contributed to several Christian education and theological forums sponsored by the FEET.
In Honduras the Christian Commission for Development (CCD) accompanies and trains the poor of Honduras in agriculture and community development. The CCD is a faith-based development group that also guides pastors and lay people in theological education. Two PC(USA) mission workers are included in the CCD staff, and there is one presbytery partnership with CCD. Another mission couple works with Heifer International. The Theological Community is the seminary branch of CCD. The National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala began a mission work in Honduras that today sees fruit in the independent Presbyterian body in that country — the Presbytery of Honduras. The Presbytery of Tampa Bay relates to this small group of Presbyterian Christians.
Two PC(USA) long-term mission workers have related to the El Salvadoran development organization ALFALIT. A Reconciliation and Mission participant worked with the Calvinist Reformed Church of El Salvador. The El Salvadoran people have experienced physical and emotional pain due to the January and February earthquakes of 2001. Both the Reformed Church and ALFALIT have accompanied them during these difficult times and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been attentive to the situation.
The close relationship with the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala is seen through the six presbytery partnerships with eight presbyteries in the Guatemalan church. There are seven mission workers serving with the Guatemalan Presbyterians. The Christian Service Office, Diaconia, has been instrumental in helping Guatemalans recover from the ravages of Hurricane Mitch. The Central American Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies (CEDEPCA) has its central office in Guatemala. Two PC(USA) presbyteries are in partnership with CEDEPCA. PC(USA) mission workers are involved in communications and travel/reflection groups that help Presbyterians from the United States meet Guatemalan Christians and become acquainted with Guatemalan realities.
Mexico is a large country, and the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (NPCM) is one of the largest historical churches in the country with approximately 1 million members. Thirteen PC(USA) mission workers are involved in the Mexican/U.S. Border Ministries and two mission workers are at the San Pablo Seminary in Merida, Mexico. There are six presbytery partnerships with presbyteries in Mexico and two presbytery partnerships with Border Ministries. The three priorities of the NPCM are evangelism, education and health. The Mexico City Presbyterian Seminary Choir is known for its quality and creativeness.
The Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba became an independent body in 1975 after having been a part of the Synod of New Jersey for many years. There are six presbytery partnerships with this small but dynamic group of Cuban Christians. Cuban Presbyterians are theological leaders in their own country and in world ecclesiastical bodies. Each year Presbyterians from the United States visit with these dedicated Christians. There is one PC(USA) mission worker in Cuba at this time, serving as the regional liaison for the Caribbean, with special attention to Cuba and the Caribbean-North American Council for Mission.
Cooperation in mission between the Episcopal Church of Haiti and the PC(USA) began in the middle 1970s with the revival of a health clinic in Leogane, about 30 kilometers west of Port-au-Prince. Today this small institution is a three-story hospital serving a large area of the country. An important part of the health care from the hospital is given by trained health promoters and midwives. Education is a top priority of the church in Haiti. There are seven PC(USA) mission workers involved in education, agricultural development and health care work in Haiti.
The Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church and the Moravian Church joined to form a united church called the Dominican Evangelical Church of the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Church is active and involved in the life of the people in Dominican society. A presbytery partnership with Elizabeth Presbytery has been in existence for many years. In the past the PC(USA) has had mission workers cooperating with the Dominican Church in introducing U.S. Christians to Dominican life. Women pastors have been part of the Dominican Church’s leadership for many years.
As in the Dominican Republic, also in Jamaica the Presbyterian Church and the Congregational Church joined to form a united church. Some years later the Disciples joined them, and a new church called the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands was born. The United Church is a dynamic body that moves in development works for the poor in society and in new avenues for lay and clergy theological training. Two PC(USA) mission workers are living and working with the Jamaican people, and four presbytery partnerships are in effect.
The PC(USA) has cordial relations with the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad. Through an organization called the Caribbean North American Council for Mission (CANACOM) the PC(USA) relates to the Presbyterian Church of Grenada, the Guyana Presbyterian Church, the Presbytery of Guyana, the Guyana Congregational Union and the United Protestant Church of Curacao. Also included in CANACOM are the United Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba and the Dominican Evangelical Church. This multilateral relationship allows large churches and smaller ones to be in mission together, where all are receiving and all are giving.
The PC(USA) now has partnerships with Presbyterian or Reformed denominations in seven South American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. In addition it supports and works closely with AIPRAL (Association of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches in Latin America), a branch of the World Association of Reformed Churches. Through AIPRAL, the PC(USA) is in contact with churches from Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.
The South American countries are now climbing out of the depths of one of the most profound crises of the 20th century. The “lost decade” of the 1980s was characterized by low or negative economic growth, huge external debt, economic instability and nearly permanent fiscal crisis.
One of the causes of this poor performance is the structure of the regional economy; Latin America has the world’s worst income distribution. That means that the lack of purchasing power of the masses of people inhibits the growth of an internal market for goods produced.
Another cause of the economic distress is the globalization of the world’s economy, which the PC(USA)’s partner churches have identified as the single most difficult obstacle to their people’s development. As a Christian community, the members of the PC(USA) are members of the same body of Christ — “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Our partners in South America are asking, “How can we justify the faith affirmation that we are one in Christ if more and more brothers and sisters are suffering and excluded?”
According to the Reformed tradition, the economy is a social framework that is supposed to sustain life in community. And yet the world’s present economic order contributes to dismantling rather than sustaining community. People are not only suffering, they are being systematically excluded from the community.
Christians in Peru have mobilized around the Biblical jubilee during the year 2000 and gathered 1.7 million signatures asking for the forgiveness of foreign debt for the world’s poorest countries. Our two Brazilian partner churches are especially articulate: “We reaffirm the hope that commerce between nations should produce well-being for all people and not only for a few,” states the General Assembly of the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil. “We reaffirm the hope in the construction of an international order that is just and in solidarity, in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Although Venezuela is a world leader in the exportation of crude oil, it will take decades to recover from the effects of the floods of 1999, which totally reshaped the Venezuela coastline for 40 miles, removing whole towns from the face of the earth and killing an estimated 30,000 people.
Perhaps the country most in need of Presbyterians’ prayerful intervention is Colombia, where peace has finally made some progress only to be threatened by military “aid” from the United States. In the present context aid from the United States contributes not to peace but to war. Help from the United States would be welcomed if it were aimed at decreasing the unemployment rate, which stands at more than 20 percent. People of faith would welcome help in building housing for the more than 1 million people displaced by the war. “As a church,” writes Milton Mejia, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, “we believe that if the United States focuses its aid on military equipment and trainers it will only help to deepen and prolong a war of more than 40 years that has not been resolved by [military] means.”
All countries in this area are listed below. Countries with Web pages giving Presbyterian-specific information are highlighted. For other countries, there is currently no PC(USA) involvement in this country or the Web pages have not yet been prepared. The PC(USA) also participates in or relates to work in other countries through ecumenical relationships.
Central America and the Caribbean
Antigua and Barbuda
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Regional liaisons (mission co-workers)
Sarah Henken, regional liaison for the Andean Region, South America—Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela
Jo Ella Holman, regional liaison for the Caribbean
Tracey King-Ortega, regional liaison for Central America
Pix Mahler, regional liaison for Haiti
Dennis Smith, regional liaison for Brazil and the Southern Cone (Argentina, Uruguay, Chile)
CANACOM has pioneered a different form of mission partnership, a roundtable where resources are pooled, according to means
"Journey of Faith and Learning to Uruguay and Argentina," travel/study seminar hosted by the Waldensian Society. May 30–June 8, 2012.
Latin American Protestants, Catholics hold historic meeting
Latin American Council of Churches to meet in Cuba
“Affirming an Ecumenism of Concrete Gestures” is the CLAI's theme